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The Leaflet blog provides:
. Innen's weekly comments from a Dharma perspecti
ve
• the up-to-date practice calendar for our Red Maple Mindful Living Centre,
• links to our Tendai family of centres

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Friday, October 24, 2014

WALKING IV

WALKING IV

It can seem like a conflict when we try to decide between walking practice and just going for a nice walk. This needn’t be the case. If you enjoy a brisk walk on a country path or a city park and recognize how valuable this is for your overall health, there is no need to sacrifice that for your mindfulness practice. When you go out, you can set aside a portion of the walk for a specific practice and once you have gone so far or for so many minutes, you can switch to a step-counting or recitative practice, such as nembutsu, for a period of time or distance.
Incorporating recitation is an especially strong way to join walking and practice. It is very simple and reinforcing to layer the rhythm of the chant with one’s stride. It does not have to be any particular pace, so you can fit it to whatever you are doing already.
If you are blending recitation into a longer walk, it is wise to reserve that practice for the part of the walk that is safest and with little decision-making. You don’t want to have to stop for a traffic light or be worried about transport trucks while chanting. It can be helpful to bring along a 108 or 27 bead mala (nenju) as well so that we stay alert to the number of recitations. You can do as many circles of the beads as you choose.
Finally, walking nembutsu is more than bringing a practice into your private walk. Since the beginning of Dharma practice, walking practitioners have understood that our recitation offers the reinforcement to our practice but, perhaps more importantly, we are bringing the sound of the Dharma to the route where we walk. Any presentation of the Dharma is meritorious and beneficial for suffering beings. We are not just walking because its nice to get out in the fresh air (although that’s true), we are walking and chanting because this is our expression of the Buddhaway for the benefit of all beings.



NEXT MONTH Our theme is Remembrance

Yours in the Dharma,                          
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu   

Friday, October 17, 2014

WALKING III - WALKING AND SOUND

WALKING III - WALKING AND SOUND

Walking is a naturally rhythmic activity. Once you find your pace you will notice that cadence, that’s called the beats per minute (BPM). We can use this cadence to layer the practice we are doing. We can incorporate some auditory input at that BPM which will reinforce our walking practice and make it more stable and deep. The typical auditory methods we have are counting and recitations.

Counting is the simplest and it can be counting steps or breaths. When you are walking, if it is slower in pace, you can synchronize your step (usually alternate steps, as in every left step) with the breath. This would mean each time you plant the left heel and move forward, you do it with an out breath. In our temple practice, we may do this kind of slow pace walking and use the moktak (wooden drum) to maintain that cadence. This works well with a slow indoor pace, but becomes awkward as we increase the pace and BPM.

If the pace is faster, you can count the steps in between out-breaths. This would mean you count the left foot/out breath as 1, then count the subsequent steps to the next out breath. This might mean you count 1-2-3-4-5 steps (depending on your pace) and then another out breath and begin again. This kind of step/breath counting is a very supportive addition to outdoor walking which maintains your concentration. This is one of the simplest ways of layering breath, step and cadence.

Next week we’ll look at using recited phrases while walking.


Yours in the Dharma,                          
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu                        

Sunday, October 12, 2014

WALKING II -MINDFUL WALKING

Mindful Walking

When we think of mindfulness practice, we often assume it to be some form of seated practice. This is a real misunderstanding of the purpose and value of our practice. If we want to dive into the depths of our experience, then we have to recognize it is more like a buffet than a sit-down dinner. Mindful living strives to expose us to the deepest and richest experience of our lives - seated walking, happy, sad. We can’t choose only the sweet parts. That kind of preferential narrow-mindedness is what keeps us stuck in the usual and the unsatisfying.
We humans are homo ambulans, the walking species. We are fundamentally designed for movement. Although this is declining in present culture (much to the peril of our physical and mental health), we live most of our lives on the move. One foot in front of the other. This means that, if we want to experience our lives, we will experience it in motion. This brings us to walking practice.
As with any mindfulness practice, we have the formal and the informal. The formal is the careful and precise walking we do in our indoor practice space. It uses a refined posture and a deliberately slow pace. When we practice our body in motion, we enter that full experience of dynamic balance, shifting from centred points, from foot to foot. Informally, we bring that same spirit of active and dynamic inquiry to walking outdoors. It can be the Sunday morning stroll, a hike in the woods or the walk home from work, along urban streets. I am learning it can even be brought into the rigors of a speed-walking regimen.
Mindful living is not any single practice or posture, its a how we engage with the ever-changing kaleidoscope of our lives. We sometimes call our practice sessions "walk-sit-walk-sit", because this is how we meet ourselves in every day of our lives.   

                                        
Yours in the Dharma,                           
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu   
                   

       
                   
   

           

Friday, October 03, 2014

WALKING - 1

WALKING

Our theme for October is walking practice. Our monthly workshop will celebrate Walk-tober, an international event promoting the many benefits of walking. In this first talk, I want to look at the importance of posture and balance.
It might seem that there is a huge difference between the most common form of meditation, sitting practice, and various walking forms. However, the principles are actually similar. Whatever form of meditation or mindfulness practice we employ, several things are key, no matter the form:

  • groundedness; this is our solid connection with the earth, be that sitting on a mat or a chair or standing on our feet; posture is the means of ensuring this;
  • open awareness; this is our willingness to let go of judgements and preferences, to release distractions, so we can remain available to experience what is happening in our practice and to open to it over and over;
  • attention to breath; all practice forms use the breath as the anchor;
  • dynamic balance; regardless of the form, we never become rigid or frozen; there will be times of surprising stillness, but we also recognize that, as breathing humans, we will always experience a constant re-balancing of our posture.

Walking practices are exceptional in building these capacities in our practice.

  • groundedness - unlike sitting practices where our connection to the earth and physical stability may be taken for granted, in walking we are required to establish a firm connection through each step we take;
  • open awareness - unlike sitting practices, where there is normally little variation in the physical context, and the chief distractions are mental, when we walk we must attend to the whole physical space of our walking or risk stumbling or some other physical mistake;
  • attention to breath - in sitting, breath can slip into the background or otherwise over-taken by passing mind states; when we walk, as with any physical activity, it is difficult to do it smoothly if we aren’t coordinating breath and step;
  • dynamic balance - walking is by its form a balancing act, we are continuously shifting our balance from foot to foot; it calls us to establish balance over and over again

These are true no matter what walking practice you engage with. Over this month we will have opportunities to explore this directly in our practice.

Yours in the Dharma,                          
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu